Form follows function, that was the design philosophy of the captain. A single square light in the center of the ceiling, bright enough to illuminate the small room and compact enough to take up no other space. A desk in the center lined papers and double-sided monitors. A bed, stove, refrigerator, cabinets, and a bathroom to the side. He slept, ate, and everything in between in this room. One could live here so long they didn't mind the spartan design.
"And that just about covers it." The man who spoke was Gerold, he was an older man who yearned to relive the golden years of his mercenary work. Those years had left him wanting, left him with desires that he could never obtain. But he still sought to reach them.
"And my wife? When can I see her again, it's been too long." The other man had earned his fair share of fame during the end of the aforementioned glory years. Kurt was approaching his thirties with far more combat experience than he would've liked. A farmhand turned guerrilla leader, transformed into a mercenary after a five-year-long war.
"Due to the nature of this work you will not be able to see her until your contract ends. I've made this clear an abundance of times. The only way I can let you see her is if we terminate the contract early, and I'm sure you know what that means." Gerold explained, minor annoyance seeping into his voice.
"When the contract is terminated you stop paying for my wife's medical bills and I must reimburse any prior payments you have made," Kurt replied in a monotone, almost trance-like flow. He knew what it was, a trap to keep him working for as long as possible. Gerold was intent on milking the man for all he was worth and using his notoriety to get new bodies for cheap.
"After all the times you've asked me, I'd almost begun to believe you didn't read the agreement," Gerold replied, as his hands sifted through a stack of papers. His mind was sharp but his body was rapidly approaching sixty. Gerold was no longer fit to have his boots on the frontline, to be back there was a desire he clung to dearly.
"Of course I read it, I was just holding out a little hope that somewhere, in your decrepit old heart, you still had a bit of your soul left," Kurt stated, he had a way with dry humor. One could say it was part of his charm, not that he had much else. War had changed him into a shell of a man. He drank, smoked, and killed. Not much else was part of his routine.
Gerold chuckled in response. "We're soldiers, we don't have souls. Now go brief your squad, you got a job to prepare for." With that final tidbit, Kurt left the room. The door slid into the ceiling and he walked through the gunmetal gray hall. Form follows function, that was the captain's design philosophy. The hall was three shoulder lengths wide and thick enough to stop most projectiles from piercing the inner hull.
He was currently onboard the Vita-Sanguine, which was in turn orbiting a colony planet. Roughly one hundred miles down on the surface of the planet, civilian components of the crew, mostly maintenance staff buy; ammunition, food, and fuel for the many weapons, crew, and vehicles the ship houses.
On this planet, in a bar, several soldiers drank away their unfulfilled duties. Keat, a disgraced doctor who joined the group to feed his drug addiction. Mute, self-explanatory. Robertson, a walking safety hazard with unmatched technical skills. Nayan, a woman with an unhealthy interest in explosives, large guns, and tanks. And finally, Kenley, the resident communication manager, and Mute's voice.
The building is fashioned most similarly to an old Earthen bar, the seating and tables made of a brown synthetic wood, the bartop a mix of granite and steel prefab supports. Orange lights illuminated patrons of all origins as they drank from glass bottles. They cherished the classical design over the utilitarian prefabs of the many colonial buildings. It was a short but sweet break from looming dark blue and gray buildings, lights that spoke of function over form, and streets of smooth steel.
The group of mercenaries sat at their table chatting the evening away. Nayan made it her mission to make Robertson as uncomfortable as possible, she prodded, squeezed, and slurred sweet words at him as she drank herself into oblivion. In the meanwhile, Keat was calculating how much alcohol he can mix with the pills in his pocket. Too little wouldn't give him a good buzz, but too much could outright kill him.
Kenley was off doing... something and Mute was praying that someone will take him away from the lively scene around him. Mute was a recluse through and through, he found more comfort in war than parties. His prayers were answered at last when Kurt walked through the door, half-finished cigar in mouth and rifle clipped to his waist.
"Skipping your duties again?" Kurt said, walking down the line of tables until he reaches his squad.
"We got kicked off the boat." Nayan detached from Robertson's chest and leaned on the table.
"Does it have something to do with the lack of power in my bunk?" Kurt eyed Robertson as the latter slumped down into the table.
"Hit the nail on the hammer!" Nayan slurs, before thrusting her bottle into the air and taking a swig of the potato vodka.
"Robertson managed to fuck up one of the cables leading to your section. Why only your room was affected?" Kenley strutted into the room through the rear door, a barmaid hurried to her post behind him. "Maybe it was luck." He grabbed an empty chair, flipped it around, and sat.
"Speaking of luck, where the hell did Keat go?" Kurt tried and failed to find any signs of his missing compatriot. "Robertson, go find him before he kills himself. And Nayan, quit encouraging Kenley, wipe that grin off your face." The woman simply cackled in response.
"We got something to talk about once the good doctor gets back." Kurt grabbed Robertson's untouched beer and downed half of it in a single gulp. It smelled of grape and tasted like liquid shit. It burned his throat for the first few seconds while it fizzed, eventually settling down. "How do you people drink this garbage?"
"Colony alcohol is an experience. Not a pleasant one, but everyone should try it at least once." Kenley said before grabbing Kurt's leftovers. He sipped idly, exchanging glances and winks with a nearby barmaid.
"Pants Kenley, keep 'em on." Kurt hailed down a barmaid and ordered a glass of water. "Thank God I grew up on a civilized world."
"Civilized worlds don't have pirates." Nayan quipped. The blonde-haired woman looked oddly proud of herself for making such a simple remark.
"I'd take pirates over bad alcohol just about any day of the week." Kurt sipped his water, washing out the disgusting aftertaste of the colony beer.
The group talks for a while longer as they wait for Robertson and Keat to return. Evening turns to night as most of the patrons leave. Only other mercenaries and groups of friends stay.
"I told you, I grew up on an agriculture world. I've been drinking since I could walk." Nayan slurred. By some miracle, she wasn't an ounce more drunk than she was an hour ago. By now the bottles had started to pile up; bread and other appetizers had been ordered to sate drunken hunger.
Robertson and Keat walk through the front door. Robertson looked a little worse for wear and Keat's lab coat has been torn in several places.
"The hell happened to... I really don't care, we have new orders." Kurt sighed, watching the pair of men return to their seats. Robertson's brown hair was somehow messier than it was before. In contrast, Keat's once neat ponytail was undone and flowing at neck length.
"To preface this, I'll start by saying two things: One, this is an escort and security job. Two, we will not have any reinforcement save for what we take with us." The group gave various affirmations. "Some science corp took interest in a planet not too far from the edge of occupied space. Our job is to get them to their destination and hold security until their boys can get in and take over." Kurt said.
"Why isn't their security team coming with?" Kenley translates Mute's sign language.
"Official reason? They're tied up dealing with pirates. Probable reason? We're a scouting party meant to escort some expendable assets until they can evaluate the planet's worth." Kurt explained.
"Animal life has been observed along with large trees and other plant life. Something in the atmosphere kills electronics, so the scientists haven't got any rovers down. Our entry device will be fine, got a built-in Faraday cage. We'll be supplied with several of those robot things and the science team is gonna bring the rest of the supplies down with them. We meet tomorrow at seven sharp, so don't be late." He continued.
"So, we gonna be fighting dinosaurs or something?" Nayan says, relinquishing Robertson's personal space.
"Don't start fantasizing, the planets been cloudy ever since they arrived nobody has much in the way of information. But they did see some kind of large bird for a few moments." Kurt replied.
"One last thing, Robertson when we touchdown you have command of the robots," Kurt said.
"They're, uh, Mechanized Infantry Soldiers, sir. MIS for short, you can call them androids." Robertson said timidly.
"I don't give a shit if they're bronze age dildos or a fucking peanut! I'll call them whatever the hell I want!" Kurt shouted, the Gerold impersonation was something he picked up for the sole purpose of messing Robertson with. It was a fun party trick and made the greenhorns new shit themselves whenever he broke it out. "Right, dismissed."
Kurt left the cozy bar. He walked to the landing pad where a drop-ship sat waiting as people loaded into it. A large emblem of a knife stabbing through a coin was painted onto the side of the aircraft. Above it was a name, 'Gambit'. It was the mercenary corp that hired him.
Gambit had a long history of violence, both on the right and wrong sides of history. If there was a civil war happening, the name could be found with little effort. They didn't try to hide their involvement as any attention, positive or negative, would serve as a demoralizer for enemy combatants. Fighting about a foe who ate armored divisions like candy or para dropped bombs disguised as supply caches would cause just about anyone to be anxious.
Kurt filled the last available seat and the ship lifted off. It was a VTOL with four thrusters capable of vectoring. It can seat twenty people and carry small vehicles and other cargo. It has two sections; the body, which holds cargo and passengers. And the stubby cockpit, which holds a pilot, co-pilot, and various equipment.
It was a short ride to the Vita-Sanguine and Kurt found himself in his bed before he even realized it. Not many people were awake at this time of night, and even fewer roamed the gunmetal gray halls. But Mute hadn't drank much and he needed to savor the silence now. The morning would be filled with the ambiance of his groaning squad-mates as they nursed hangovers.
He enjoyed the silence, it was one of the few times he could truly rest.
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